If we can agree for the moment that Wikipedia is a reasonable source of information on the topic, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evangelicalism, then evangelical is Protestant. Yes, that fits me. However, I will point out that there is an evangelical movement, or subgroup, in the Catholic Church. Second, wiki indicates Christian. Yes, again. I live my life intentionally trying to follow Jesus’ words and example. I’m a follower of Jesus; I hold him as Christ and savior; that generally defines me as Christian.

Wiki indicates evangelicalism arose with John Wesley’s adherents and Methodism. I’m certainly Wesleyan, Arminian through and through. 

David Beddington suggests four key elements to Evangelicalism:

  • biblicism, a particular regard for the Bible (e.g. all essential spiritual truth is to be found in its pages)
  • crucicentrism, a focus on the atoning work of Christ on the cross
  • conversionism, the belief that human beings need to be converted
  • activism, the belief that the gospel needs to be expressed in effort

For me, biblicism would be limited. I assert that duplicate, but differing accounts of events in the books of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles are simply errors. So, obviously I’m not in the inerrant crowd. There are plenty of scriptures I’ll admit to lacking understanding before I’ll assert that they are somehow “true”. Crucicentrism, I accept that without reservation. Conversionism, while I certainly believe in the new birth, I trust the Lord’s word in that I must be born again of the spirit, still, no. Not me. Salvation is by grace, through faith. If I have to have an emotional or other sort of experience, where is the faith? It is based on something seen (or felt), rather than on a conviction based on thorough thinking, belief, faith, confidence. I believe in the empowerment of the Holy Spirit to help me walk in and live out my faith and my salvation as I continue in it and set my will to do God’s will. Activism, well, no, not really, at least only in a general sense of I have duties to my fellow man, and I need to actively work at fulfilling those duties. But for me to actively evangelize, or perhaps to be politically active in the name of the Gospel, well, no. I truly believe that if you can resist the Hound of Heaven, I have no power to persuade. In fact, I find persuasion to be an illusion. 

So, one and a half out of four? Or maybe another half with Conversionism. From this perspective, I am probably not an Evangelical. 

However, reading the whole of the wiki article, I seem to fit generally. It seems the generic meaning of Evangelical is simply ‘neither liberal, nor fundamentalist.’ Okay, I fit there. I can no longer consider myself a Fundamentalist in any regard. I’ve never been a liberal in the religious sense (nor in the political sense, but that is entirely different).

So, more personally, in half my family, there are sinners and saints, or rather, black sheep and fundamentalists. In the other half, mostly what would fit the Wikipedia definition referenced above, with ministers and lay-ministers a plenty.

I was raised Pentecostal, with strong American Baptist influences from my mother’s side. Both my grandmothers, Lois and Grace, were known for time spent in prayer. I was influenced throughout my youth by Word-Faith ministers, and some by ministers such as J. Vernon McGee. C.S. Lewis is probably the most significant influence after my own study of the scripture, and Madeleine L’Engle (I do not hold any sort of universalist views), was significant, in A Wrinkle in Time. I read a fair amount, though never quite what my teachers wished. 

My family left the Pentecostal church of my childhood in my early teens, and soon after joined a start-up church (nondenominational). The couple who started it are graduates of Christ for the Nations Institute. My parents attended a couple of seminars there over the years as well.

I ended up attending Rhema Bible Training Center, and met my wife there. We both graduated the two-year program. We were both quite active in church since, until recently. Both of the churches we raised our children in proved unwelcoming after some years. Too long a story to wander into, but suffice it say my views generally prove unacceptable among Fundamentalists, and both these churches had more Fundamentalist leanings than we realized until we felt unwelcome. 

With that background, perhaps I’ve never quite been a Fundamentalist, but surely I’m an Evangelical. I must emphasize that evangelical is essentially evangelist, or evangelistic. I see an evangelist as a calling the Holy Spirit leads some ministers into, not the duty of every believer. Jesus commanded us to follow Him. He said He’d be responsible for our fishing of men. I just don’t see most of us as intended to live a life of fishing (preaching, evangelizing) for others. That is the Holy Spirit’s job. Jesus stands at the door and knocks. I consider it an honor when he uses me to help someone open the door to Him, and I consider it my duty to be ready. I just don’t see it as useful for me to try to force the issue in any way. It seems to me this view nullifies “Evangelical” as an appropriate label for me. Overall, I’ll stick with Christian–follower of Christ. My focus to live by the standard that if Jesus didn’t say it or do it, it should be a secondary (or less) issue for me. 

 

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